Transportation Assimilation: Immigrants, Race and Ethnicity, and Mode Choice

Immigration has altered the demographic composition of California where the foreign-born population now comprises more than one-quarter of the population. Despite this staggering figure, surprisingly little academic scholarship has focused on the travel patterns and behavior of immigrants. In this study, we use data from the 2000 Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) of the U.S. Census to examine the commute mode choice of California’s foreign-born population and, more specifically, the relationship between length of residency in the U.S. and transit usage rates, controlling for other factors likely to influence mode choice. We find that recent immigrants—regardless of race or ethnicity—are significantly more likely to commute by transit than native-born adults. After the first five years in the U.S., assimilation to automobile use occurs across all immigrant groups; however, the rate of assimilation varies significantly by racial and ethnic group even controlling for income. Asian immigrants rapidly move to automobile use while Hispanic immigrants remain more likely to use transit than native-born commuters even after 20 years in the U.S. The findings from this study suggest that factors in addition to income and residential location—such as cultural differences—affect commute mode choice. Further, since assimilation to automobile use occurs across all immigrant groups, without a steady stream of new immigrants as well as policy changes to either slow the assimilation process or attract new riders, transit ridership in California likely will decline.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: CD-ROM
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 18p
  • Monograph Title: TRB 86th Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers CD-ROM

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01044330
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 07-2475
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Feb 8 2007 7:10PM